Don’t Tread on Me: A Critical Essay

nuns-with-guns3

Hmmm, maybe this is what’s wrong with the feminist movement.

Controversies have erupted in comments on my Mercy Otis Warren post over at The New Agenda. I work 10.5 and 11.5 hour days on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I was only able to respond on the fly until late last night, and have not been able to express myself as openly since it’s not my blog. I intend to do so here, and in the process, hopefully sort out a few issues within the feminist movement, in addition to identifying and articulating a feminine dynamic I’ve alluded to before, but have been unable to satisfactorily summarize until now. First, the criticism.

Digger started it out, though I will say that by the end of the thread the last I saw, she’s done a decent job of letting it go. I have no idea why she did, but I admire a person who can take a step back and try to de-escalate a hot situation. I’m not very successful at that myself, as my early comments clearly indicate, and I realize this is a weakness I have. What can I say? I’m working on it. Anyway, her specific complaint centered upon this quote from me:

Given this radical content, is it any surprise that for more than two hundred years after our founding fathers declared their intent to set up a nation and award themselves human rights, one group after another would seek to establish those rights for themselves? That exactly describes what happened during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Driven by a number of other forces that we’ll explore throughout this series, African Americans and women began to pursue those rights for themselves. Today, gay and lesbian citizens, among other groups, continue to fight to secure rights for themselves. We think nothing now of universal human rights; they are considered the norm in our culture.

Specifically, she complained that I made it sound like gays and lesbians were less important come-latelies to the human rights movement, and that human rights were not the norm because of her experience. To that, now that I’m not posting comments on the fly, I offer two reasoned rebuttals.

  1. Gays and lesbians are come-latelies to the human/civil rights movement compared to women and African Americans, though they are no less important. If I recall correctly, Stonewall kicked off the first wave of gay rights activism in America, and that happened in 1969. Now that’s a tragedy, but it’s also the reality. I’m very sorry gays and lesbians have been persecuted throughout time, but I haven’t been the one doing the persecuting, which is what I said in comments. FTR, I never said or implied that they were less important, just that their fight builds upon the fights of previous groups.
  2. Second, I defend my use of the word norm. Definition: Norm: a standard or model or pattern regarded as typical (princeton.edu). A belief in human rights, including gay and lesbian rights, is typical. The majority of Americans think it is unjust to discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, nationality, sexual orientation, or sex in employment, housing and accommodations, adoption, marital options and a whole laundry list of other scenarios. Just because the laws do not yet agree with the people does not mean the belief is not the norm. The people dictate the norms. So no, most people who hold these beliefs, and that would be the majority of Americans, do not think much of human rights. They act as if they are normal and should be expected from everyone, and that fact is working powerfully on those laws, which are as we speak in a process of progression.

This is the response I should have offered Digger, and I wish I had. I didn’t because I was hurt more than anything by her aggressive style, and her complete dismissal of my work and the topic in her haste to assert her point of view, and because I was incredibly busy. My reaction was to think fuck it, I’ll just STFU up about gay and lesbian rights, a cause I believe very much in. If I had maintained that point of view, the criticism would have had the affect of disempowering a strong gay and lesbian rights advocate, which would have been unfortunate. I’ve of course reasoned that out, and will continue my advocacy of gay rights issues, but it might be worth thinking (and I include myself here) about how presentation affects a cause. Not everyone has the kind of awareness of power structures and human behavior that I have, so another, less informed person might have really STFU forever about the topic.

With that reasoned rebuttal out of the way, let me turn my attention to MJohnston, because these comments are what stick in my craw, to use a local phrase.  MJohnston has literally attacked me in the thread. She likens my behavior to that of a man, and suggests that I am perpetrating patriarchal protocols on Digger. I saw this as an attempt to bait and intimidate me and ignored it throughout the thread, but I will address it here. I heartily object to MJ’s characterization of me. From a private blog post I wrote yesterday:

MJ was insisting that I was acting like a man (horror of horrors!), when in actuality I was trying (admittedly poorly) to express my emotional investment in my work, and my emotional displeasure with the conflict. I would submit that is because of that feminine training dynamic I mentioned earlier [which is mentioned later in this post], and thus my response was entirely feminine, not masculine at all. I would also submit that false charges here appear: namely, that I put words in her [Digger’s] mouth or belittled her concerns. I did neither.

Isn’t it a shame that I have to defend myself in this way? It’s an even greater shame that I should feel the need to even care to. Needless to say, the presentation of their strong opinions had a strange affect on me. After more than 24 hours reflecting on it, I think I can summarize what bothered me. I have wasted far too much time and energy on this topic, this being the second blog post I’ve written about it (the first I kept private). This is all because of a peculiar little dynamic within patriarchy. Here’s what I said in that private post:

Now, one of the rules of the Patriarchy Playbook is that girls have to be trained to respond effectively to negative criticism. By this I mean that girls are trained to look for and offer solutions when conflict arises, and such solutions generally have to do with the girl changing herself to avoid the conflict, even if she had no part in creating it. This is how it comes to pass that as adult women we constantly strive to make other people happy, and why a critical comment can worm its way inside our heads and ruin whole days, while men easily enough just slough it off.

This has been the dynamic in play as I’ve wasted far too much time and energy on this yesterday and today, even missing my graduate class today so I could write that post that no one will ever see. Honestly, I shouldn’t fucking care. I don’t know any of the commenters (who are offering criticism) personally in that thread, and chances are we’ll never meet. Why I should care wtf they think is beyond me, and yet I do. My brain is plagued by it. It’s felt like a private mental war and has lain heavy on my heart. I’ve inspected every corner of myself to see what I might have done wrong, and all I’ve come up with is that I should have been more professional in responding commentary. All that time and energy wasted, I just want to go off. I want to scream WTF! over and over again.

I am working my ass off trying to make this shit happen. Mercy Otis Warren is a name that I doubt either of these women had even heard before they read my post. I’m filling up the blogosphere with this topic as fast as I can, and others are joining the cause, we are making progress and WTF, right? I mean, could you get less controversial than a forgotten dead woman from over 200 years ago? This is not feminist theory folks, nor is this series scholarly, obviously, situated as it is on an emergent women’s rights blog.

What’s really bothersome is that women’s work is filled with this kind of bullshit criticism. A woman can barely try to make a dent in the war against patriarchy without another woman coming along and saying she isn’t doing it right. With a gazillion fucking valid targets out there, women have got to shit all over the hard work of other women. Yes, I realize I’m being hypocritical here, as I am able to recall a couple of posts I’ve made being critical of other women who are just as earnest and hard working as I am. Trust me when I say that hypocrisy ends here. This shit has got to end–we’ve got to unite and support each other, and not participate in that monkey business of fussy nitpicking and trying to intimidate or discourage other humans. Because that is what’s wrong with the feminist movement.

Alright. I think I can sleep now. G’night.

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10 comments on “Don’t Tread on Me: A Critical Essay

  1. unmarrieddaughter says:

    “This shit has got to end”

    So Mote it Be! Amen and Hallejah, again and again!

    I am so tired of being battered by every side. I know I see this every day in the feminist blogsphere. I watched the train wreck of Renee and Margie Jamieson go at it over the whole “margie hates transgenders/Renee is a slave to white males” blogging ” and thought wow, both these women should be fierce allies not fighting like this, attacking each other so personally. I think I became horrified at both parties when Jamieson started attacking Renee’s white family, and Renee started calling people bitches. It’s just wrong somehow, and I am not, as Jill at Feministe puts it, part of the sanctimonious woman’s studies set,(Pinkish blue collar here, no college education and I am just now starting to re-read feminists such as hooks and Greer), so I can’t put into words why these incidents are wrong, maybe it’s because these women are allies, and they are burning down their own house so to speak.

    Maybe it has to do with the whole, “Feminizm, U R doing it Wrongz” that comes from actual feminists as well as everyone else. Like we as women have to champion every single damn fucking atrocity and fix it. No, we don’t, we can be outraged over 10 year old girls having to sew nike shoes 12 hours a day for 50 cents, and still have to buy shoes that we can afford!, to cover our feet so we can get to the march for women’s rights, and maybe Nikes bought at the Goodwill are the best we can do. Guarantee that some holier than thou feminist will come along and say something about how our Nikes are contributing to the exploitation of girls, and then when we point out we bought them from a woman vendor at the flea market who is trying to make a living, that exact same feminist will say something along the lines, “but Nike is getting free advertising, so you still are hurting women by wearing them!”

    And see, that is my problem, we as women can’t win, ever, not fucking ever, not with men, not with children, not with other women, even those women who claim to be on our side. Maybe this is how Patriarchy works, destroying women, physically not only by physically attacking women, but by getting women to attack each other, emotionally and mentally. You are right, this shit has got to end.

  2. And see, that is my problem, we as women can’t win, ever, not fucking ever, not with men, not with children, not with other women, even those women who claim to be on our side. Maybe this is how Patriarchy works, destroying women, physically not only by physically attacking women, but by getting women to attack each other, emotionally and mentally. You are right, this shit has got to end.

    BRAV-fucking-O!!! I couldn’t have said it better myself, This is exactly it. I wish those crotchety ladies would STFU and grab a pen, a broom, a protest sign, anything other than pick on other women!

  3. Thia says:

    I understand what you meant and I loved the original article. One thing we women do far too often is tune in to only the negative messages directed towards us. We really must stop doing that! I urge you to go back to the article and re-read all the positive comments and then count the people who loved it vs those who didn’t. Judging by what you said here…”Honestly, I shouldn’t fucking care. I don’t know any of the commenters personally in that thread, and chances are we’ll never meet. Why I should care wtf they think is beyond me, and yet I do.”
    …you left with the impression that the article was not well received overall when the opposite is true. I have felt the same way about articles I have written-one bad apple spoils the party. But then I remind myself to take the megaphone away from the critical voices in my head, and then give it to the one that reminds me that 30 people loved the article-rather than the voice of the 1 who didn’t.

    Again, I love your articles on The New Agenda blog, I loved THIS article, and I think you are fabulous!

  4. Thia, I have adored watching you interact over TNA. You are a smart lady, and a wise voice. I didn’t mean to make it sound like it wasn’t well recieved, and I see your point. It’s unfortunate, though, that some other usual commenters to my blog posts over there felt uncomfortable posting because of the environment set by those two ladies. I’m glad you liked this article. It took me a while to get there without saying “fuck the fuck off!” for the first 30 lines.

  5. Also, Mr. Peacock suggests that I am right about:

    we’ve got to unite and support each other, and not participate in that monkey business of fussy nitpicking and trying to intimidate or discourage other humans.

    he says I should point out to ladies reading this that that is exactly what men do and how they preserve patriarchy–they unite and support each other.

  6. Thia says:

    I understand the feeling well. And I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to come over here and say
    “If you didn’t like Anna Belle’s article then Fuck Off from me too!”

    Wow that feels good! 🙂

  7. lisa says:

    Anna Belle I always feel so good after I come here! This type of self flagellation that we go through after arguing with strangers- it is so toxic! It’s such a strange new way to have to communicate. In a past era you would have just written a book and a few critics would comment, but you wouldn’t have to take on the opinions of every single person that read it. I love your history series, thank you so much for all you are contributing.

  8. awwwww! Thanks, Lisa! It’s a labor of love, and I’m delighted you’re enjoying it.

  9. Joanelle says:

    “Maybe this is how Patriarchy works, destroying women, physically not only by physically attacking women, but by getting women to attack each other, emotionally and mentally”
    You got it baby! – we’ve been trained to see every nit and pick it – and the patriarchy knows that by training us that way we will never overcome.
    I am so sick of seeing women segregated – white women, black women, Asians, lesbians, christians, jews – for gawd’s sake we are all women and we all suffer very similar inequities – it’s time to rise for our parity in this world. 👿

  10. Anna Belle says:

    I couldn’t agree more, joanelle, about the segregation of women. I’ve been thinking about that a lot in relation to the poetry I’ve been writing about. Both the poets I’m writing about (one female, one male) are third wave feminists, where that personal empowerment bullshit flies as sound strategy. Alice Paul never cared what kind of feminine being a person was, she just pointed out the obvious–hey! Most of the folks without rights have va-jay-jays!

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